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Get Empowered by Your Sexual Values


Get Empowered by Your Values 

Do you want to be sexually self-empowered? It helps to know both what you want – and why you want it. The Graphic Sex Project gives you the tools to find your personal pleasure code –  the perfect sexual process that unlocks your way to satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s more than all the right moves. It’s the moves that satisfy both your body and your values.

Sure, you know you like going down on your partner, for instance. What values could that be satisfying for you? Generosity, power, skillfulness, creativity, fun, control, selflessness, pleasure, vulnerability, enthusiasm… what else? Do any of those jump out at you? That might be one of your sexual values. 

Say you like your partner to watch you masturbate. What value might that be satisfying? Openness? Self-revelation? Honesty? Intimacy? Exhibitionism? Mastery?

When you can tie your desires for specific sexual activities to broader values, you empower yourself advocate for what you want. It’s not just “touch my clit” because it feels good – it’s “touch my clit” because I value my pleasure, I value having a giving partner, I value opening myself to you, I value focusing my attention, I value selfishness, I value reciprocity.

What are Values?

Values are freely-chosen reflections of the things you care about.  When we behave in accordance with our values, we tend to have greater well-being and more connection. That is true of all aspects of your life — your sexual life as well!

Take a look at this graph, created at a live Graphic Sex Project installation.


She lists the things that add to her enjoyment of sex: Red is partner spends time talking to me; Pink is partner cuddles and doesn’t rush; yellow is partner looks into my eyes; green is partner makes sure I cum; orange is partner is dominant and makes me feel wanted; blue is partner doesn’t go on phone; black is cuddles after and kisses; and brown is doesn’t go to bed right after.

Finding the Values

This is a window into her sexual values and shows tremendous self-awareness.  She knows not only that she likes to cuddle, but WHY she likes to cuddle.

It’s important that her partner spends time talking to her and cuddling without her feeling rushed. It may be that she values connection, and those activities make her feel connected. The connection is what adds to her enjoyment.

Notice that she says that her partner making sure she orgasms is something that adds to her enjoyment. She isn’t saying that orgasming adds to her enjoyment (although it no doubt does!) she is saying that her partner’s attentiveness to her orgasm adds to her enjoyment. So she values reciprocal selflessness and generosity.

The deep eye-gazing may be a connection value also, or possibly she values empathy, or inner harmony, or love, or belonging. When the activity contributes to a value, that is the path to sexual self-actualization.


Try Your Own

Download my sexual values worksheet from the link below, and take a few minutes to think about what matters to you… and how your preferred sexual activities align with those values.


GSP Values Worksheet

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What’s With the Cubes

What’s With the Cubes? 

There’s not much that’s less sexy than little cubes. They look like something kids use to learn to count. Also, they hurt when you step on them with bare feet. Believe me, I know.

So why did I choose cubes as a way for people to talk about their sex life?  In 2016 I started the Graphic Sex Project, going around Washington, DC, with bag full of cubes and a bunch of markers and asking people to make “graphs” of their ideal sexual experience. They could use any words they wanted to define what each color meant in their graph. I had furry red light box so people could take a picture of their graph — to share with a friend and to add to the collection if they wanted to.  

What I discovered is that talking about sex using something that’s not at all sexy is a really powerful way to get a new perspective. Using cubes and squares to graph your sex life de-eroticizes it. It moves your thinking about sex into other realms: playfulness, logic, aesthetics, creativity, language, memory. The new perspective is fertile ground for new insights. 

If someone asks you “what do you want?” are you stumped? Here’s a good way to explore it. Are you unsatisfied with your current erotic life? Here’s a good way to think creatively about how it could be different. Would you like to talk to partner but can’t find the words? Here’s a way to discover your words. Don’t know how to bring up the subject? Here’s a fun conversation starter.

People do all sorts of different things with their graphs – much more than I envisioned!  I thought people would just make a timeline of a good sexual flow: what happens first, what happens next, using more cubes to mean more time spent on that activity. I gave them dots and suggested they mark where climaxes happen.

The above graph says this 30 year straight man gets in the mood with lots of texting, sights, smells, food and drink – blue, pink, red, orange, green respectively. Then touching (yellow) and oral (purple) to bring his female partner to climax (blue cube with green dot). Then in the morning (brown), he has his climax (blue cube with a yellow dot). Perhaps as a result of all that drinking, he has to wait til morning? So many interesting things here: notice the value he puts on all that time spent communicating and connecting in the build up to sex – more cubes than the sexual part. His partner might want to note how important that is to him. 

Some people get very complex with their graphs. In some graphs, people would use the cubes to show where several things were happening at once.

Notice the chores? Really common for people to include something like this. Some people like to dispense with responsibilities before they can really let go and get into their body. Also, in some couples, one person carries more of the domestic load and that can lead to resentment, which is terrible for getting in to a sexy mood. Doing chores together is a way for both people to feel like equal partners.

Many of the graphs told little stories – windows into the person’s world.

Yellow is “when he promises to make you breakfast in the morning” and black is “when he leaves before making you breakfast.” Every graph is a story really, and if you look closely you can hear they story they are trying to tell. 
“Married with Dogs” is a story of newlyweds working from home, taking a break for sex. She gets warmed up with lots of touching, especially on her butt. The dogs get in the way repeatedly. A long time holding, then back to work.
I quickly realized that these stories are a way for lovers to communicate their values, their desires, and their preferences. If a person makes a graph and shares it with a partner, they have a touchstone to guide the conversation. Their partner can inquire into the meaning of their words choices, what do these cubes mean? Curiosity is an avenue for an open conversation.
Many people used the opportunity to reflect on a sexual story of their life. This 47 year old straight guy’s graph shows that there are the things they do (red), the things they don’t do that they know about (blue), and then all the things that they don’t do that they don’t know about. I challenged them to find out out what some of those activities might be, to make the red pile bigger and a note of excitement flashed on their faces. I think many conversations and experiments came out of that graph.
This graph made by a 16 year old woman is one of the first  I got at a public event:
Pink is “girls” and red is “good.” Blue is “not girls” and black is “not good.” The conclusion is inescapable – “Girls!!!”
I think proclaiming publicly something about yourself that is true and important to who you are can be a very empowering experience. It’s a moment of saying and embracing your truest self. That makes this “truest self” more available in those times when you most need it to be. That’s the real value of the moments of self-reflection that graph-making gives people.
I hope you’ll make one too. Try it out on the online graph-maker. Or you might want to get  Magnetic Graphic Sex – 200 magnetic words and 100 squares to graph your own desires on a sleek metal plate for keeping bed-side.
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Reclaiming Desire

Reclaiming Desire

One key to reclaiming desire in your relationship is to harness some sexual curiosity. Take a look at this graph from the collection as an inspiration. It was made by a 47 year old straight guy, married 20 years. There’s the “stuff we do” (red). Then there’s the “stuff we don’t do that we know about” — that’s blue.

What’s all those other colors? It’s “the stuff we don’t do that we don’t know about”  The unknown unknowns, as the psychologists Luft and Ingham put it. What are the sexual activities that you have never even heard of or thought of, that might be a new source of excitement for you?

Many people struggle with loss of desire in a long-term relationship.  You WANT to want to have sex, but you don’t really want to. Maybe you turn to the internet for help — ideas to kickstart your stalled sex life. There are so many pages all too happy to give you advice – the suggestions are endless. What do you choose?  (You should probably check with a doctor first to see if there there is some medical reason – especially it your libido dropped off suddenly).

I’m here to say that you don’t have to worry too much about which new sexy new idea you try — they could ALL work to help you reclaim desire!  Let me explain.

There was a study done once on the effectiveness of various treatments for warts (stick with me here!). They found that all the treatments were very similar in their effectiveness and that all the treatments were better than doing nothing at all.  In other words, swinging a dead cat in a graveyard at midnight on the full moon (Tom Sawyer-style) will cure warts as well as Compound W, and both those things will cure them better than doing nothing. (Disclaimer: that research might be bullshit. I couldn’t find it again to cite. Colorful though, isn’t it?) The conclusion? The placebo effect is a powerful thing, and that’s absolutely true.

Sexual desire can be like that. If your sex life is lacking in excitement or passion, or if desire has waned — and face it: it is bound to in any long term relationship — then just the intention to search for a solution and trying new things could have some effect, regardless of what the solution is. And it’s not just the placebo effect, though that’s certainly a powerful part of it. 

It’s also a due to a little thing called attention. Focusing your attention on what you want to change can cause movement toward that change. Think of it like riding a bicycle. You aren’t consciously thinking “I want to go right, so now I need to turn the handle bars right.” You have the desire for going right, and your body makes it happen. If you decide you want more desire and spend time, energy, and head space seeking out things that will help, your body can respond to that.  

If you incorporate your partner into the project, all the better. Make an adventure of it. Together, seek out new ways to improve your sex life and try new things. Anything you discover together will have a positive effect, and the search just adds to the fun. Need some ideas for new things to look into?  Check out the next post for a quick 50 new things to try.


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Fifty Things to Spice Things Up

Fifty Things to Spice Things Up

In my last post I wrote about how using the power of the placebo effect, plus attention and intention, can help you jump start flagging desire.  Notice “wild card” in pink in the graph above? It’s the wild card that always keeps things interesting!

Trying new things together with the intention to make your sex life better, is the point – it doesn’t even matter so much WHAT you try. It’s the trying that can work the magic.

So you want to try some stuff but need ideas?  Here’s a list!

1 .  Shop for sex toys together online

2 .  Be excited about their arrival, and then play with them

3 .  Watch porn together – explore the wide variety of ethically-produced porn (porn tip: if it’s free it’s terrible)

4 .  If you usually have sex with the lights on or off, switch it up

5 .  Set a timer for 10 minutes and agree to stop when it goes off, even if no one has climaxed

6 .  Share fantasies

7 .  Listen to audio porn during sex

8 .  Smoke pot

9 .  Make a sex video

10 . Get tied up

11 . Tie up your partner

12 . Try a 30 day masturbation challenge – no sex, but daily masturbation

13 . If you usually fantasize during sex, try not fantasizing 

14 . If you never fantasize during sex, try it

15 . Make a date to have sex

16 . Invent a pre-sex ritual together

17 . Set a goal to have sex in every room of your house

18 . Have a totally selfish session – all pleasure for just one person. The other only gives. Take turns

19 . Watch a video about Orgasmic Meditation and try it

20 . Try to make the other person climax while they read aloud from their favorite book

21 . Find a place to have sex outside

22 . Read erotica to each other

23 . Find a marriage counselor to talk about your sex life

24 . Go to a sex tips workshop

25 . Comparison shop for better lube

26 . Explore more anal stimulation

27 . Try using gloves for a new sensation

28 . Explore goingn to a sex club

29 . Write a profile together on a swinger website, just for fun. Or for reals

30 . Play with the Magnetic Graphic Sex Project and set up some scenarios to follow

31 . Sext 

32 . Buy a remote controlled bullet, and wear it on a night out

33 . Commit to thinking about sex and being aware of your genitals at least 3x a day

34 . Read a book together on improving your sex life and compare notes

35 . Hire a boudoir photographer to take sexy pictures of you together

36 . Commit to only having sex with your eyes open

37 . Get the Kama Sutra and try each position

38 . Buy a flogger and use it

39 . Sign up for a rope typing course

40 . Make out in the car

41 . Explore some herbal remedies

42 . Do more Kegels, and think specifically about sex when you do them (people of all genitalia type can benefit from kegels)

43 . Try to find someone for a threesome – just the looking is fun

44 . Have a threesome

45 . Watch each other masturbate

46 . Pretend to pick each other up in a bar

47 . Go away for a weekend and make no plans except sex

48 . Block out a chunk of time for super slow sex

49 . Get a strap-on, whatever your current equipment

50.  Sign up for a tantric yoga course together

All of these things involve 7 important steps that create attention and intention, to improve your sex life:

  1. Thinking about it
  2. Suggesting it to your partner
  3. Talking about it with your partner
  4. Deciding to together to try it
  5. Preparing to try it
  6. Trying it
  7. Talking about what it was like.

Regardless of whether the thing itself was subjectively good for you (maybe you start doing it all the time, maybe now you know you NEVER want that again), all that attention and connection and communication with your partner is highly likely to positively effect your sex life and level of desire, for both of you.

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Sexual Creativity and the GSP

Sexual Creativity

 Sexual Creativity and the GSP

two lady love sesh

A participant at the Graphic Sex Project wrote me to say making a graph inspired them to think of other different and creative ideas to express their sexuality. This made me so happy! Success! I really believe the Project helps you harness your creativity as a powerful way to realize a more fulfilling sex life.
Just look at the “two-lady love sesh” above: an artistic endeavor is their foreplay.
Good sex is itself a creative endeavor – and I don’t mean biologically pro-creative. Being a good lover is so much about thinking of new ways to give and receive. You are listening to your partner’s body and responding creatively with your own – such a dance of pleasure. How can you touch them in a different way than you have before? What subtle shift will cause more pleasure? What rhythm will bring your bodies in a more perfect synchronization? 
It’s paying attention to now, not simply doing what you’ve always done before. It’s improvisational.
The combination of your mouth, your fingers, the heel of your hand, the pressure of an elbow, the slide of a leg, the genitalia – all are instruments in a  symphony you are playing on their body, and they on yours.
So if it is creative, then it makes sense that all kinds of creativity can speak to the sexual experience, and become a tool for a deeper understanding of your desires. You create the connections in your brain. If you make art and think about sex – then when you have sex that art becomes a reference. 
Haven’t you danced to a song you love and it made you feel sexy? Same thing. The Graphic Sex Project connects your creative brain to sexual brain. How else can you wake up your creative/sexual spirit?
Deepak Chopra famously said “Creativity is ultimately sexual.” Sex is clearly the inspiration for a lot of creative output, but I’m suggesting the opposite: that creativity with  can inspire sex. As long as you are thinking about sex while you are being creative.
Write a poem about sex. Take arty pictures of your partner’s skin. Draw your partner. Draw your genitals. Write an erotic short story. Paint the flow of your love-making. Improvise music to your partner masturbating. 
Here’s a cool idea. Alexander Esguerra and Tyler Peters make art by covering lovers bodies with paint (non-toxic) and putting them on a canvas to have sex. 
Get the Magnetic Graphic Sex Kit and play with the colored squares and words. Each time you play, are making a piece of art and inspiring your next sexual encounter. 
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Sticking up for Gloves

Sticking up for Gloves 

Gloves get a bad rap. They are the butt of every safe sex joke (yes, pun intended). A doctor putting on a glove is always good for a laugh in movies. (Ahhh! They’re gonna put their finger up the butt! hahhahahah!).

I’m not going to talk about safe sex. You can read about how great they are for that here

I’m going to write about how much fun they are. They are a great sex toy! They can morph into a thousand different shapes to stimulate all your parts in thousand different ways (hand not included).  Here are a few of the great things about gloves:

  1. Super soft and silky. I like the nitrile ones – smooth like an expensive vibrator. It’s a really nice contrast with bare skin.
  2. Smooths over rough skin and nails so nothing touching your tender parts is sharp.
  3. Really adaptable for all body parts – great on the outsides and the insides
  4. Makes anal play easy if you feel a little squicked out. When you finish with that part the gloves comes right off – hand is all clean! To be really rocking it, have another glove ready underneath the first.
  5. The anticipation of watching someone put a glove on is delicious.
  6. The added fun of NOT having to worry about cuts on hands, cross-orifice infection, and other STI risks.
  7. They don’t absorb lubrication like hands do, so everything stays nice and slippery.
  8. They are super cheap – a box of hundred for $8

So get over all the butt and body shame inherent in all the proctologist jokes and glove snickering, and get a box of gloves for a new fun thing to play with.

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A Lesson from Gay Men

A Lesson from Gay Men 

This has got to change: straight women report fewer orgasms per sexual encounter than any other group — straight men, homosexual or bi men, and gay or bisexual women. This is according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2017. Following the release of this provocative study, hundreds of articles appeared in the mainstream press to explain this so-called orgasm gap.

Some of the advice that floated around the internet in the wake of this study boiled down to the suggestion that in heterosexual relationships, a man should delay his orgasm until the woman has hers. “She comes first!” they declared. Let’s unpack that. There’s an overlooked implication in there that as soon as a man comes, sex is over.   

Granted, men have a much stronger refractory period than women do, and some men are very nearly incapacitated by oxytocin post-orgasm.

We’ve all seen the scenes in movies where the men roll over and immediately go to sleep after orgasming, the woman staring at the ceiling.  Usually she meets her true love in the next scene, right?  But I have to ask, if this is just what women have to put up with from men because of the way they are wired (so you better get yours first), what do gay men do?

You’ve got 2 men having sex and one has an orgasm and falls dead asleep… the other does what?

Take a closer look at the orgasm gap from the study. It details how often people have an orgasm in a typical sexual encounter, according to survey questions: heterosexual men, 95%, gay men, 89%; bisexual men 88%; lesbian women, 86%; and  bisexual women, 66% and heterosexual women at the bottom at 65%.

Notice that homosexual men are having fewer orgasms when they are having sex with men (89%), than heterosexual men are having with women (95%). Why would that be?  

I wonder if there is a difference in the way homosexual men treat the refractory period. Presumably gay men also confront the issue of desiring an orgasm after their partner has reached climax and fallen asleep.

I conducted an informal survey among homosexual men on Reddit and GayForum and got a few very interesting responses. Here is a representative comment:  “The refractory period is definitely a real thing and the impact is stronger in some men than others. I’m definitely a roll over and fall asleep immediately type. I’d say it’s extremely common for gay men to be responsible for their own orgasms. It’s really common for one person to come and then the other either not come or finish themselves off. In a relationship, it’s pretty common to sort of trade off who that is.”

It may be that in sex between homosexual men it is common for one partner to masturbate themselves to orgasm after the other has reached climax, or tacitly agreed to forego orgasm this time, knowing it will be their turn next time.

Another man stated: “Usually I can go more than once, but my husband goes down hard after finishing. So we usually deal with me first, then him, and if I’m still up for it, I can go again with minimal help from him.” 

Consider that “go again with minimal help from him” — it sounds like the writer is masturbating and his partner is aiding with some form of auxiliary stimulation. This sounds like excellent advice to give to a woman who is unsatisfied after intercourse with a man who is then unable to continue stimulation: give yourself an orgasm while the man watches or assists.  

Or after the woman orgasms, if she feels like snuggling down and enjoying the afterglow, maybe she should could tell the guy, catch you next time, bro.                      

Sooo many articles focus on encouraging women to be more communicative to a partner about how he can “give” her an orgasm (that’s the vernacular — ugh!), and encouraging men to do more of the activities that lead to orgasms for women (which is great advice).

How about let’s encourage women be more like homosexual men —  take responsibility for our own pleasure, and stimulate ourselves to orgasm if a man has orgasmed and is relatively incapacitated or newly uninterested.  

Perhaps in the process, men would learn what satisfies women through observation, become more accepting of sexually-empowered women, realize the benefits of taking turns, and potentially even become more highly-motivated to assist.  Let’s bring our own numbers up, ladies, and close that orgasm gap!

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Glasses of Desire

Glasses of Desire

. . . . . Desire discrepancy is a clinical-sounding way to say that one person in a relationship wants sex more often than the other. It’s really common, of course! It’s just another sexual preference – the length of time a person prefers between sexual encounters. It can change throughout a person’s life for all kinds of reasons. In the beginning of a relationship when everything is super exciting you might be going at it all the time, but sooner or later people settle down into their default desire mode. There’s no “right” frequency to want sex: once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year. If your level of desire causes you distress, talk to a doctor: it could be medical. If one person basically never wants sex, and the other does, that’s for another column.

But lets talk about just run-of-the-mill, mild desire discrepancy. Maybe one person wants sex every day and the other person wants sex once a week. That’s a small difference, but it can still cause a lot of tension and distress in the relationship. One person may always feel pressured, and the other may often feel frustrated.

Let’s say they compromise by having sex a certain number of times a month – a little more than the lower-desire partner (the LDP)  wants and a little less than the HDP wants. Consider this: it may be that the LDP in that situation is farther from their ideal than the HDP is from theirs.  Here’s what’s going on. Often in those situations there is a constant tension: the LDP applying brakes to get less sex, the HDP applying pressure in various ways to get more sex (maybe just a heavy sigh once in a while, but it can still feel like pressure). It can create a lot of relationship coolness because the LDP may avoid affectionate intimacy out of fear that the HDP will try to turn a hug and a snuggle into sex. This will continue for some time, the pressure from one partner, the resistance of the other. The LDP does want some sexual element to the relationship, so they will at some point decide their desire level is close enough to wanting sex and they will consent to or initiate sex. Even though they are not feeling 100% desirous, their desire is close enough and they know the other partner wants it so much. Think of it like filling a glass: when the glass is full you are full of desire. The LDP will have sex when their glass is only partly full because they know the other partner really wants it, and they figure they are close, so they will go ahead and have sex. The result is that they never get to have that full glass of desire. They are always having sex at half desire, which isn’t that great, especially long term. In that sense they are farther from their ideal. The sex they are having is never with the level of desire they want.  

The HDP is at full desire when sex happens, but they might want to consider — is it really the sex they want? Presumably they would enjoy sex more if their partner had full desire, it’s just that they can’t seem to wait until they get there.

So what if the HDP just stops. Just takes all pressure off. What if they don’t attempt to get the other person to have sex for a long time. They don’t initiate, they don’t ask, they don’t roll their eyes, they don’t do whatever signaling they do to indicate they want sex. They allow the other partner to let their glass fill all the way up. It make take a while. Longer than they thought. It might take a while for the other partner to notice how it feels when the pressure is off and to notice the sense of relief they feel. And it might take a while for them to realize they have to initiate. It might take a while to realize they do feel full desire. Maybe then they will initiate, and they will get to feel what it’s like to have sex on a full glass of desire. It might be that when they have the experience of having sex on their actual time preference schedule, that they might find that their time preference can shift in the direction of the HDP’s preference. Maybe it will take less to fill their glass. And then maybe they wouldn’t mind trying to have sex for a while on HDP’s time preference.

That’s a lot of maybe’s but it’s worth thinking about, and talking about. See if you can have a conversation about desire discrepancy with neither making the other feel like their level of desire is wrong – it’s just a difference, like so many others.

Whatever each person’s activity level preference is, they are both valid, and the ideal to shoot for is that both partners sometimes get to have sex when their desire just reaches that perfect point of almost, but not quite, overflowing. At least now and then.

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50 graphs to make

Fifty things to make a graph about. Plot your pleasure! There are so many things to make a graph about. Use the online tool, or order a Little Bits Kit for a hands on, sexy creative night of introspection with your partner

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Get Empowered by Your Sexual Values

Get Empowered by Your Values  Do you want to be sexually self-empowered? It helps to know both what you want – and why you want it. The Graphic Sex Project gives you the tools to find your personal pleasure code –  the perfect sexual process that unlocks your way to satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s more

Posted on by Jen Beman

What's With the Cubes

The Graphic Sex Project uses cubes and squares to help people get a new perspective on their sexual values and preferences. Find out how.

Posted on by Jen Beman

Reclaiming Desire

Loss of desire and low libido can be distressing, and hard on a relationship. How can you harness the placebo effect to help kick start your sex life?

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Orgasm Ambiguity: Was That the Big One?

Ambiguous Orgasms 

Orgasm is a very obvious event for most people with penises. At the moment of orgasm, stuff shoots out of their body. Penis-owners don’t have to wonder if that was an orgasm or not, or where it originated.  It just IS, indubitably, as conspicuous as a neon sign over the bed: “You came!”

Clits are more circumspect, their orgasms more assorted. There’s an ambiguity in the orgasms of a clit. Ask women to describe their orgasm and the answers are a menu of sensation, as varied as ice cream flavors. Witness a handful of women having orgasms and you’ll wonder how they can all be called the same thing. Some women get very still, with no more than the ripple of a shudder through their body.  Some women make no noise, some moan, some whimper, some scream. Some thrash about, some barely move, some practically convulse. It may last a moment, or minutes. Some women immediately need to have all stimulation stop… some woman roll right into the next wave of feeling and another climax. The researchers list the symptoms: elevated heart rate, flushed faced, a series of rhythmic contractions in the vagina, the uterus and the pelvic floor muscles. But they also say that not all women show all these signs all the time, and even in one individual it can differ from one to the next.  Women say their individual orgasms can be very different – some big, some small, some they aren’t even sure if it was one or not.

And so one really has to wonder how there can be such an emphasis on this one monolithic thing An Orgasm as if it is undeniably there or not there, like a pregnancy.  Where one can’t be sort of pregnant, one can certainly have a “sort of” orgasm.

But you’d never know that from the way people talk about it. Browse around the internet for advice on having an orgasm and it is invariably framed as black/white, yes/no. Have you had one or not? Did you have one or not?

For any woman who questions her subjective experience, the ubiquitous answer is “if you have to ask, then you probably haven’t.” I mean to dismantle this harmful piece of folk wisdom.  It’s just not true that if you doubt whether you are having an orgasm, then you must not be.

There are women who think they aren’t orgasming, and they are. There are women who aren’t sure that the sexual response they are having qualifies as orgasmic, and assume they, therefore, aren’t orgasming, because they’ve been told so many time – “oh, you’ll know!”

There are women that think so much about whether they are going to finally, this time, have an orgasm, that they don’t notice the climax they have.  There are women who judge and doubt and hold their climax up to inspection and find them wanting. I did that to my climaxes for a lot of years, until I finally began to see my see my orgasm, acknowledge it, love it for what it was and accept it, nourish it with awareness and help it grow into a robust orgasmic response. 

If you feel like your orgasm is ambiguous, start by thinking about your “pleasure peak.” Were there moments in the experience that you would call a pleasure peak? Just start noticing those and appreciating them, and let go of needing the label for a little while.

Let’s stop feeling inadequate if our climax doesn’t wake the neighbors, merge us with the universe, or turn us into a butterfly.

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Going with a Gay Flow

Going with a Gay Flow

Homosexual people have a lot to teach heterosexual culture about sexual flow. Take for instance, “foreplay.” I have a real pet peeve about this word. What exactly is it before

Calling an activity FOREplay implies that intercourse is a necessary component of sex, and that anything that happens before it is just the warm-up band for the headline act.

Penis and vagina intercourse is over-valued in heterosexual culture, even though only 20% of women reliably climax that way.

Take a look at this graph where kissing (green) leads to foreplay (yellow) leads to oral (purple) leads to sex (blue). What exactly are those activities labeled “foreplay”? Could they maybe also happen after that activity labeled “sex”?  

Heterosexuals use the words “sex” and “intercourse” often synonymously. In the Graphic Sex Project collection, I’ll see a graphs that include a whole smorgasbord of sexual activity, and then one cube labeled just “sex.” Or maybe “actual sex.” I want to break it to those people – all that other stuff is sex. And the order of them isn’t set in stone. 

Sixty percent of college students surveyed do not feel sex has happened if it doesn’t include intercourse. 

Where do they get this idea? Movies for one – straight sex in movies is practically all intercourse (and when the guy comes, it’s over). Two, the emphasis on “virginity.” The perennial question “have you had sex yet?” Never mind that you’ve been doing oral and manual and orgasming together, and being naked together and everything else, but in the minds of many you haven’t had sex yet unless a penis has entered a vagina. Some misguided young people think they are still a virgin if they’ve only done anal sex.

Queer Culture and Sexual Flow

Queer culture has a much broader conception of sex, encompassing all sexual activity, not just intercourse, of course. From the graphs I’ve collected in the Graphic Sex Project, I’m starting to see some interesting trends in the words people use. Very few LGBTQA people use the word foreplay compared to straight people, who use it a lot.

Mutual manual stimulation may be classified as “just making out,” among heterosexuals, whereas mutual manual stimulation is the most common activity among homosexuals and is certainly defined by the participants as sex. As one homosexual man stated in the informal survey I did on Reddit, “It actually helps quite a lot there isn’t as rigid a structure in mind and the end goal isn’t necessarily mutual orgasm.”  I love that. Hetero people take note.

Why does it matter?

Because when you prioritize PIVI in your language, it becomes prioritized in your head. And PIVI is the activity most likely to lead to orgasm for men, and the least likely to lead to orgasm for women. And that, my friends, is a good way to end up with an orgasm gap. 

When your concept of the sexual story arc is do some foreplay leading up to the big moment when intercourse happens, culminating in the man’s climax, the implication is, ok, now sex is over. Take a look at the graph at the top of this post and see if you think that’s what’s going on there.

In 700 graphs in the Graphic Sex Project I’ve only seen the word “afterplay” once. The man’s march to orgasm has framed the sexual experience.

If you drop the word foreplay, then it opens up the possibility that some of that stuff could happen AFTER intercourse. Or hey, maybe intercourse doesn’t have to happen this time at all. Maybe we could just play with each other junk back and forth for hours! 

It’s not all just about getting the penis into the vagina, straight people!

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Looking, Inspecting, Noticing

Pre-Sex Inspection and OM 

Here’s a pretty graph, made at one of my workshops by 23 year old queer female. Isn’t it interesting that it starts out with Inspection? I’m not totally sure what she means by that. It could be inspection to determine if the person’s genitals look STI-free: but that is not at all a reliable way to do it. Much better to go ahead and ask them. A pre-sex safe-sex discussion is always a good idea, letting each other know when you were last tested.

Or is inspection just a moment to really look at each other, admire each other’s equipment, a way to say “I see you,” an acknowledgement?

This is done in the technique of orgasmic meditation, which is worth reading more about if your interests include both meditation and sex.  One person strokes the clitoris of another person for 15 minutes, in one very specific way: on the upper-left quadrant in an up and down motion with the pressure you would use stroking an eyelid. That’s it. After 15 minutes the experience is over. Healthline has a good description of the practice and why people do it (hint: because it’s meditative).

There’s a very specific series of steps (which the creators, One Taste, call “non-negotiable). After the building of the “nest,” and assuming a very specific position in relation to each other, the “stroker” puts their hands on the “strokee’s thighs and does the “noticing step” as follows:  “The noticing step consists of a one or two sentence value-neutral (in terms of shape, color, location, texture, etc) physical description of some aspect of the strokee’s genitals. The etiquette is simply for the strokee to acknowledge this observation by saying “thank you” afterwards.” (From One Taste website)

That might not be at all what Laura meant by inspection, but I think it’s worth thinking about the noticing and the inspection. You might also call it witnessing. Witnessing the other person’s humanity, their body, their beauty, exactly as they are before you in this moment. It’s a way of bringing yourself into this moment with this other person, a kind of ritualistic way of beginning. You are here now. I am here now. Let us begin.